For those of us who identify as queer or have friends in the LGBTQ+ community, James Martin’s recent talk on inclusion in the Church may have come as a welcome surprise. Long have queer-identified people waited for a welcoming hand to reach out to them, especially when the news is filled with stories of bishops denying funerals to gay Catholics and queer people being fired from their jobs in Catholic institutions. Martin and those who stand with him have given queer Catholics reason to hope.
As we enter the season of Advent, hope is a virtue that we could all hope to cultivate. It is a virtue that queer people in the Church can teach us a lot about. Many of them subject themselves to harsh criticisms from members of their own church, yet remain for their love of Jesus, the Church, and its traditions. They remain despite many efforts to exclude them from the Body of Christ. Those that remain in the Church are prime examples of what it means to share in the expectant waiting that the Holy Family experienced as they prepared for Jesus’ birth.
This hope is situated in a future where the Lord refreshes our souls, where we fear no evil, where God’s mercy pursues us all the days of our lives (Ps. 23). Those queer Catholics who have claimed their place in the Church maintain an expectant and hopeful eschatological outlook. When Elizabeth sees Mary for the first time after becoming pregnant, she exclaims, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45). Many queer Catholics have a special and hopeful vision of a Church where everyone’s soul can be refreshed, where no one need to fear, and where goodness and mercy are virtues accessible to all.
Without this burgeoning conversation on the inclusion of queer people, we would lose this important Advent insight on what it means to hope for a better Church. No one is completely happy with where the Church is. As a small example, those who once advocated for strict obedience to the papacy are now some of its biggest detractors, and those who once were the papacy’s biggest critics are now its biggest advocates. What would it mean for us to put aside the things that divide us to enter into a dialogue of mutual respect, sensitivity, and compassion?
This dialogue is that James Martin advocates so strongly for. It begs us to ask hard questions and rethink how we view our fellow Christians. Martin often urges queer Catholics to claim their rightful place in the Church—that as baptized Christians, nothing and no one can strip them of the grace bestowed on them by virtue of their baptism. Should we be so daring as to fall back into the rigorist heresy of the Donatists by denying the rights and grace bestowed on people by virtue of their baptism?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “[W]hen you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed…you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk. 14:13-14). Jesus is willing to welcome the outcast to dine with him. Could we not do the same? Is not Christ’s call for us to build the bridge of respect, sensitivity, and compassion?
To my fellow queer Catholics: you have many gifts to offer the Church and the people in it. There is nothing anyone can do to take away the grace bestowed and the rights entitled to you by your baptism. You are loved deeply by a God who will always be greater than, not bound to, the harsh criticisms of a few. You are examples of Advent hope and joy—both the Church and the world desperately need it.